By: Sam Chan
The dreamy Hugh Jackman dreamingly chases his dreams – as he plays P. T. Barnum in ‘The Greatest Showman’. So why can’t I?
The Greatest Showman sticks to the tried-and-trusted and paint-by-numbers formula for a musical. It all begins with the “I have a dream” song – where we are introduced to the hero who, in an opening scene, will look out into the distance and sing a song with the word “dream” literally in it.
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make
Hugh Jackman fulfils this dream by becoming the Greatest Showman on Earth.
But the movie ends – as all such movies do (so no spoilers here) – with the hero realising that everything he wanted was there in front of him already. His dreams had taken him away from happiness. He should’ve been happy with what he had right from the start. And now it was time to come home.
I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else’s dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop
And see you here
I remember who all this was for
The Greatest Showman brilliantly captures the unworkable paradox of Western Individualism. We teach our children to chase their dreams, to be all they can be, and to make a difference. But at the same time we tell them to be happy with who they are, and not let anyone tell them otherwise.
So which one is it? To dream or not to dream? To be happy with who I can be, or be happy with who I am already? If the world can be a better place, who’s to say I shouldn’t also be better than who I am?
This is because we’ve lost all objective measurements of what’s good or bad, better or worse.
Some dreams are good, but not all dreams are good. Some dreams will destroy the very ones I love. And even if my dream is good, I can be chasing it for all the wrong reasons. This was Hugh Jackman’s pivotal moment of self-awareness.
This is where Jesus resolves our paradox. With Jesus, we can be both happy with who we are, and be better than who we are.
In Jesus, God loves us just the way we are. We don’t have to earn his love, win his respect, or gain his favour. We have a home. We don’t need to leave to chase a happy ending. We already have all we need.
But in Jesus, God loves us too much to leave us the way we are. God changes us bit by bit, to be better than who we are. To be the people we can be. To be the people we need to be.
We all need to chase our dreams. And Jesus comes to give us a dream that’s worth chasing. A dream that won’t destroy us. A dream that will make me be all I’m meant to be.
Article supplied with thanks to Espresso Theology.
About the Author: Sam is a theologian, preacher, author, evangelist, ethicist, cultural analyst and medical doctor.